Beyond Band of Brothers Tour- Europe

Intro

I just finished the Procom Beyond of Brothers of Tour. It was one of the best vacations and experiences I’ve ever had!

This tour was action packed. We saw five or six sites a day. It was a breakneck pace and non-stop fun. It was an epic adventure with a capital EPIC!

I had unabashed fun and meet some exceptional folks who will be life-long friends. Let me tell you about my front row seat to the history of World War II in Europe. I was riding shotgun!

World War II

World War II was the bloodiest conflict in the history of the world. Bombers destroyed cities, millions of people were murdered in concentration camps.

World War II started in Europe, but it soon spread around the world. Fifty-seven nations went to war. More than 50 million soldiers and civilians died, half of them in the Soviet Union.

For six long years Europe was torn apart by fighting. Life would never be the same again. After this tour I feel I have a better understanding of World War II.

“Band of Brothers”

Almost everyone has seen the “Band of Brothers” miniseries. It focuses on the actions of one outstanding light infantry company during World War II.

The war was so big, with so many characters and outstanding heroes that you can get lost in strategy and personalities.

Easy Company’s story is about individual soldiers. During World War II, it fought in Western Europe.

What brings Easy Company’s actions to light is the individual stories of the men of the unit, and one extraordinary man in particular- Major Dick Winters.

Paratroopers

Paratroopers are not ordinary soldiers. Their battlefields are behind enemy lines. They drop silently from the sky. They are messengers of death and destruction.

Lightly armed, unsupported by tanks and heavy artillery, they fight time after time against overwhelming odds and win.

This is the story of Arnhem, the Ardennes, Bastogne, Normandy and crossing the Rhine into Germany. It is the story of Easy Company, a heroic band of daredevils in America’s biggest war.

Procom Tours- Beyond Band of Brothers Tours

Excellent customer service has almost become a thing of the past. We consumers have grown accustomed to things being outsourced. This tour was everything it promised to be and more. Especially in telling the story of “Easy Company.”

Nikki Montgomery- Procom

First, I would like to thank Nikki Montgomery for all her hard work, organization and communication. I had all the information I needed to for my travel.

She not only managed to arrange EVERYTHING I asked for, but also provided the BEST staff to help us drive us around and much more.

CHARLIE KOVES and JANOS MEGYERI

We couldn’t have asked for a better guide than Charlie! He took special care to make sure we saw everything there was to see. He was incredibly knowledgeable about every detail. Most importantly, he made us laugh and feel comfortable on our tour. Procom has a real treasure there!

Janos is the best driver I’ve ever seen. He made sure the bus was always ready and we were always safe. He went out of his way to help, Ric, our oldest traveling companion. He put that bus into cramped spaces I would be afraid to drive my Toyota Pick-Up Truck. Great guy.

THE EXPERIENCE

The tour follows the path of Easy Company. The tour is based on the first-hand and personal recollections of the paratroopers. It includes the extensive research of Stephen Ambrose, and the hard work of our local tour guides.

The tour is an experience unparalleled in anything I have read or experienced. We stood in the very foxholes and locations where Easy Company fought. We got firsthand experiences of some of the most climactic battles of World War II.

In the evenings there was free time to relax, shop and explore some of Europe’s most charming villages and cities. Each meal was delicious event where we recounted the day’s events with your fellow travelers.

We got a chance to sample local food and see some of the same sites that the men of Easy Company more than 70 years before.

CHARLES DE GAULLE AIRPORT, PARIS, FRANCE- July 2, 2016

The tour started in Paris. Our group had ten people in it. After a long trans-Atlantic flight everyone was tired. Charlie made sure everyone was good-to-go and we had our luggage.

Everyone was jet lagged and tired. It was a four-hour trip to our hotel. Charlie set the tone right away.

During the tour he had a two jobs- he was our full-time tour historian and full-time tour guide. He let us know that we had access him to him 24/7. Our wellbeing was his priority. He put everyone at ease and got us ready for an incredible once-in-a-lifetime experience.

He begin our by explaining Paris and France. He shared knowledge that only a native European and world travel knows.

Within an hour everyone was asleep.

HOTEL MECURE, OMAHA BEACH AT PORT-EN BESSIN, NORMANDY, FRANCE- July 2-5, 2016

The hotel is at the root of the Omaha Beach Golf course. The natural beauty of this area has stunning views and a great location.

The hotel was a knockout. It had a heated pool, the high speed internet connection was free and covered everywhere you went in the building. The breakfast first-rate and the hotel dinners were delicious. With its calm surroundings, with the sea close-by you could almost forget an epic battle was fought here for six weeks in June 1944.

It was hard to resist the charm of the touristic town Port-En-Bessin, a 15 minute walk from the hotel. Over the next couple of days we visited Bayeux and Arromanches-les-bains, and the American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer.

The Tour de France started in Normandy and the German cycle team-Team Sky was staying at the hotel.

RUDY PASSERA

We met Rudy on Sunday morning. It’s hard to say enough great things about him. He loves history. He was born and raised in the Normandy area. He lived in Minnesota for a couple of years so his English and French are equally impressive.

First and foremost he is a true expert on the American Normandy campaign. He worked at the Normandy American Cemetery and at the Utah Beach D-Day Museum. He was the Master of Ceremony for a few International D-Day Commemorations.

He took us to Omaha and Utah beaches. He explained the battles through the stories of individual American soldiers and made you feel like you were there. He answered the most obscure questions and cited the sources from where his info came from.

Rudy went above and beyond on the last day. Corey and Sam Franklin, a father and son, traveled from Chicago for a special reason.

Corey’s dad was a Battalion Surgeon with the 90th Infantry Division. He landed on Utah Beach the first day. He died a few months ago. He wanted his ashes spread at Utah Beach.

This was a deeply emotional event for Corey, his dad inspired him to become a doctor. For Sam, it was the last good-bye for a beloved grandfather. For the father and son it was the trip of a lifetime.

Rudy arranged through the Utah Beach D-Day Museum for Corey and Sam to be given a certificate and medal. It honored the liberation of France from Nazi tyranny.

10 minutes later we down at the beach in a moving ceremony. Rudy provided flowers and helped to make a very moving emotional event very personal. It was the one thing Sam and Corey talked about for the rest of the trip.

Rudy made our trip to Normandy a memorable event. He was the perfect bridge from the past to the present. His kindness and enthusiasm made us cherish the memory for the rest of our lives.

BEST WESTERN HOTEL MELBA, BASTOGNE, BELGIUM- July 6-8 2016

In December 1944, Easy Company was in the defense of Bastogne, Belgium. The town was a crucial road junction that blocked the Germans from breaking through Allied lines.

In a week of non-stop fighting in freezing cold weather, the 101st Airborne Division, badly outnumbered and outgunned, stopped an attack of 15 German SS Divisions from taking the town.

Easy Company was at the tip of the spear in the middle of the action.

Our hotel had first class accommodations. It was right in the middle of downtown, it was easy to get around. It was a few miles from where Easy Company froze in snow filled foxholes.

HENRI MIGNON

“I didn’t choose involvement in World War II. I was an eyewitness to it,” This is how Henri Mignon begins his exciting tale of what it was like to endure the German occupation of his country.

As a nine-year-old boy, he witnessed the war’s effects in Bastogne, his hometown. He told us of the perils of combat, bombings, and his family’s evacuation from their rural home. His father was killed the day before the battle ended.

After the war, he was an artillery officer in the Belgian Army. He visited the battle fields of Bastogne often. After he retired from the army Henri’s interest in the Battle of the Bulge really started. He’s personally mapped out every trench and foxhole in the area.

He’s collected war artifacts and personal recollections from local survivors. After decades of research, he is an award-winning authority on what happened in Bastogne.

Henri treated the tour group like devoted friends. He was an excellent host of his amazing country. Henri’s eyewitness account of the Battle of the Bulge and his experience as a soldier helped to tell the stories of the soldiers – on both sides – who fought there.

THE RILANO HOTEL MÜNCHEN, MUNICH, GERMANY, July 9-11, 2016

We stopped at the Luxemburg American Cemetery and visited Patton’s grave. Next we arrived in Munich. We stayed at the beautiful four star Rilano Hotel in downtown Munich.

STEPHEN WHITEHORN

Our next guide was Stephen Whitethorn. There are tours and there are amazing tours- Stephen gave one of the best tours I’ve ever been on.

Stephen is an English gentleman who speaks German. He showed us Hitler’s Eagle Nest and Dachau Concentration Camp.

His attention to detail and incredible encyclopedic knowledge of the Third Reich and the Holocaust are fun to listen to. Steve infuses the long, ambitious tale of the rise and fall of the Third Reich with intellect by casting the Nazi leaders in social, religious and cultural contexts.

He has given more English-speaking tours of Dachau than any other tour guide- a few thousand, at his best guest.

Steve’s real gift is his powerful voice as a Speaker for the Dead of Dachau. He tells the true story of how at least 42,000 people were systematically murdered by a ruthless regime.

He has the courage to face the horror every day and tell the truth. In the aftermath of a terrible war everyone wanted to move on and forget. Steve reminds us why it’s important to remember.

In Munich, Steve took us to the tucked away places off the beaten track. We saw the old town hall where “Kristallnacht” or “Night of Broken Glass” started- a period of concerted violence by the Nazis in Germany and Austria against Jews. It was the prelude to the annihilation of Europe’s Jews.

His wife’s grandfather fought in the same regiment as Hitler in the First World War. Stephen has his firsthand account of the Beer Hall Putsch- Hitler’s failed attempt of taking over the German government in 1923. I stood where he made the historical speech.

Stephen is one of the leading historians on the Battle of Britain but his real historical love is Nazi Germany. It shows when he explained the war. Steve explained in layman’s terms how World War II happened.

After World War I, Germany was defeated. It was bitter and divided over the war. People were poor, many were unemployed and the local money lost all its value.

Many Germans were afraid and angry. Their fears were played upon by Hitler, a ruthless politician who promised to make Germany strong again. He bullied, lied and cheated his way to power.

He was a violent racist who made the Jews the scapegoats for Germany losing World War One. He despised the people of Eastern Europe. When Hitler attacked his neighbors in 1939, Britain and France couldn’t stand by.

The world was plunged into war.

We had some extra guides were deserve special mention.

SCOTT DESJARDINS

Scott Desjardins is the Superintendent at the Luxembourg American Cemetery. He gave us an amazing summary of the D-Day landing, the Allied push through France & the Ardennes, the Battle of the Bulge & into the Rhineland.

His concise history that tracked the movements of the American Army through Western Europe. His description contained tactical and strategic actions from Normandy to the German border.

A retired Special Forces Command Sergeant Major, he sees his duties at the cemetery as a continuation of his military service. It shows through in all that he did that day in the cemetery.

KATIE BEAUDETTE

Katie is a tour guide at the Canadian Juno Beach Centre. She is making the most of a wonderful opportunity for young Canadians to experience life in Normandy, France and be tour guides at the Centre.

She is an expert on Canada’s rich military history. Katie is a graduate student in War Studies at Royal Military College of Canada. Her specialty is the Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders, the Primary Reserve infantry regiment of the Canadian Army.

Katie gave an excellent account of the Canadian soldiers’ valuable contribution to the war effort.

On D-Day, 6 June 1944, SD&G Highlanders were part of the 9th Infantry Brigade, 3rd Canadian Infantry Division. They were part of the 176,000 Allied troops that crossed the English Channel to attack the beaches of Normandy, in Nazi occupied France.

ASSESSMENT

I loved this tour. if I had the money and time I would spend a year doing these tours back-to-back. We toured spots were some of the fiercest battles of the war were fought. It was an incredible and unforgettable experience.

Highlights include:

  • Private Rooms with private bath or shower, hotel taxes, and service charges.
  • Touring by first class air-conditioned motor coach.
  • Delicious meals showcasing local cuisine.
  • All entrance fees to museums and attractions.
  • Educational road books full of maps and historical information.

I can’t say enough about the warmth and genuine hospitality of the people on this tour. We ate in outstanding restaurants and received excellent service. It was a fun way to study history and learn about the monumental events of World War II.